When Covid-19 closed its schools, black, Spanish and poor children achieved the greatest success in math, reading

When the Covid-19 epidemic forced most schools in the United States to close last spring, students were thrown into new and unknown ways of learning. Special education students and children learning English lost the support their schools struggled with with online insurance. Many students had no access to computers or the Internet and were completely cut off from their teachers.

The real fees associated with these disorders of student learning will not be known for months or years, but new reports from organizations testing national education have reviewed this effect early on.

The most recent is a report by the NWEA, formerly the Northwest Evaluation Association, which analyzed the results of tests taken by nearly 4.4 million U.S. students in the fall in third and eighth grades and found that most maths lagged behind, averaging 5-10 results. percentage points behind students who took the same test last year.

While the majority of students performed better than expected in reading — scores similar to typical non-pandemic years — this was not true for black and Spanish students, as well as those attending schools in high poverty. These groups of students experienced a slight decline, suggesting that the pandemic exacerbated long-standing educational disparities, possibly even lagging behind children who were already behind their white and wealthier peers.

“This is a cause for concern, and that’s why we’re really focusing our attention on helping children catch up,” said Megan Kuhfeld, senior researcher at NWEA and lead author of the study.

Kuhfeld and colleagues analyzed the results of NWEA MAP Growth surveys, which thousands of U.S. schools gave to students several times a year to track their progress in math and reading. Evidence has been found that school closures caused by the epidemic have robbed some vulnerable students of important skills that could hinder their development unless their parents and teachers help them catch up quickly.

“They may fall behind more and more if they have holes in their learning,” Kuhfeld said, noting that, for example, it’s hard to learn to multiply fractions if you haven’t mastered addition and subtraction yet.

But more worrying than the findings themselves is the fact that only part of the image is captured. The study was limited by the fact that a large number of students – one in four – who typically do the MAP assessment, which is widely used in the NWEA in the fall, were not considered this year.

Students may not have been tested because they could not contact their online classes on test day. They may have been absent from school due to illness or quarantine. They may be attending schools that have decided not to take the test at all this year, given the many new challenges for schools due to the pandemic. Or students missing from NWEA data may not attend school at all.

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In many districts of the country, the number of schoolchildren dropped significantly in the fall, with a study finding that 3 million of the nation’s most vulnerable children – homeless, foster, disabled or learning English – could be removed from school.

This means that while NWEA researchers have found good news – reading and math student scores were higher than the NWEA predicted in an earlier report – it’s hard to know how significant this is.

It is possible that students are learning better from a distance than they feared, or that parents were able to supplement their learning with additional lessons, Kuhfeld said. But another big factor is students who didn’t pass the test – and who were more likely to have scored lower.

“The students we worry about the most are probably missing,” Kuhfeld said.

The results of the NWEA echo the results of another national testing organization, Renaissance Learning, Inc., which reviewed the results of more than 3 million U.S. students in the first and eighth grades in another widely used school rating called Star, and found that reading results decreased slightly, and math scores decreased significantly compared to a typical year. The Renaissance, which also found a decline in the number of students who assessed in the fall, similarly found that black, Spanish and Native American students, as well as rural students and those attending schools serving the poorer population, lost more space than more advantageous students.

For many parents and teachers, this year’s results were hard to see.

“It made me feel like I had failed as a parent,” said Angélica González, a mother of three in Seattle whose middle child, a third-grader named Lolly, always performed excellently at school until her classes became virtual last spring.

Lolly learns from a distance.Courtesy of Angelica Gonzalez

Lolly, who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), sitting in front of a computer screen found the hours so stressful, Gonzalez said, crying daily. Gonzalez eventually gave Lolly permission to skip these distant classes and preferred to teach her daughter herself. It was the best decision her daughter could make for her mental health, González said, but when she returned to school this fall, taking advantage of the program that allowed some students to come into the school building for online classes and ask for help from the school his colleagues, Lolly’s MAP indicators, showed that his reading skills had fallen back to where they were at the beginning of second grade last year. His mathematical results, slightly below the national average, have not moved since last winter.

Gonzalez is concerned about the long-term consequences of the disruption, particularly because the Catholic school where Lolly is participating in a scholarship has recently responded to the rising Covid-19 rate by eliminating the possibility of admission from inside the class. Lolly was better able to focus on her online classes in a classroom where the school staff was ready. He’s home again now and struggling with distance learning the same way he did in the spring, ”Gonzalez said.

“I know kids can catch up, but that will require education, resources and money, and we won’t do that even for kids who are struggling right now,” González said.

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He himself was homeless as a child and jumped from school to school. She was eventually able to finish high school even though she became a teenage mother and went on to college. He recently graduated from law school and works as a legal counsel until he becomes a licensed lawyer. But because of the shortcomings in her education, she doesn’t know, she said.

“Even to this day, the situation is much more difficult because I didn’t have the foundation,” Gonzalez said.

He recalled that the teachers had treated her differently because she had fallen short of her grades and concerns that might happen to Lolly.

Angelica Gonzalez and her daughter Lolly were reading on the couch at home.Courtesy of Angelica Gonzalez

In Dallas, teacher Kevin Culley has similar problems with Joseph J. Rhoads elementary school students.

He expected to score lower than usual when his third-grade math students completed the MAP assessment this year, but he didn’t expect so many to be half a grade behind.

“These scores were a little scary,” he said.

She conducted interventions, redesigned her lessons to include fun, dynamic presentations, and competitive math games that teach third-grade concepts, as well as a second-grade overview for both classroom students and those who broadcast live from home. . But he’s worried about what might happen to his students if they don’t catch up before they pass Texas high-stakes state STAAR exam in the spring. The exam can affect whether underperforming students advance to the next grade and the scores are used to assess teachers and classroom schools.

“The test is something that stands above their heads and I’m really worried about how it’s going to affect their confidence,” Culley said. “Once you’ve broken your child’s self-confidence, it’s hard to get him to keep moving forward.”